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Exams allow you to demonstrate your understanding of course content and materials, and apply that understanding to different problems and scenarios.
Don’t just plan to remember theory!
Content and structure:
- Check your course outline
- Check any online exam information
- Attend review sessions given by your teacher – ask questions!
- Total course materials or only second half?
- What kind of questions – essay, multiple choice, short answer, paragraphs?
Ensure you know:
- Time – start time, reading time, end time
- Date – when, where, room/venue
- Rules – are dictionaries/calculators allowed, etc.?
Besides your notes and workbooks, consider other materials:
- Course outline and study guide – What are the key learning outcomes for the course? Are there clues as to what is important to take away from the course?
- Any extra resource materials, e.g., lecture slides, activities, quizzes, journal articles, or additional readings and resources available on Connect
- Essential textbook/s or extra books available online or via library – course textbook, or are there useful books in the library? Most textbooks have review questions at the end of each chapter
- Your teacher – have they planned any revision classes or handouts? Have they provided past exam papers? Have they indicated which parts of the course will be on the exam?
- Classmates – find a study buddy! Discuss course materials and compare notes
Regular revision – plan mini revisions every few weeks throughout the semester in addition to any revision done in class or before exams
"Female student holding library books" by CollegeDegrees360 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
If you are have difficulty with exams, here are some common problems and solutions to help:
|Running out of time||
Not answering the question
Not answering all parts of a question
Not giving enough information
Not demonstrating what you know and how well you know it
- Eat breakfast – your brain won’t work well on an empty stomach
- Avoid excessive coffee or stimulants
- Arrive at least 30 minutes early with all your exam equipment
- If your friends are nervous, avoid them!
- Find a calm, quiet spot for some last minute revision or some deep breathing if it helps calm you
- Attend the exam on the correct day and time
In the settling-in time:
- Make yourself comfortable
- Make sure your watch has the same time as the exam clock
- Place your exam equipment where you can reach it
- Fill in your student details on the examination answer booklet or paper
Before the exam starts (or in reading time):
- Listen to exam supervisor’s instructions
- Start reading the examination paper when allowed
- Read instructions very carefully
- If allowed, make notes on rough paper
- Create a time plan for how to use the exam time wisely
- Highlight keywords and instruction words in questions
- Make notes or create an outline of key points you want to make for longer answers
- Decide on the order you plan to answer the questions
Have a plan for reading time:
- Read the instructions carefully and thoroughly. Take 10 minutes to do this even if reading time isn’t given – make a plan for your time!
- Read the questions and decide an order to answer them. You don’t have to go in order!
- Choose the questions you are going to answer if you have a choice
- Decide on the first question you will tackle
- Write notes to remind you of your thoughts on that question later in the exam, if writing in the reading time is allowed, or at the start of the writing period if it isn’t allowed in reading time
Fear comes from:
- Not knowing what will be in the exam
- Questioning your ability
- Having goals or expectations that are too high
How to overcome fear:
- Be thoroughly prepared and organised
- Know what is in the exam
- Understand your essential course content/objectives
- Be happy and satisfied that you have tried your best
Note: a little stress can improve performance
Multiple choice questions
- Always answer these! You can usually narrow down to two choices. If you don’t know, guess – you have a 50/50 chance of being correct, but blank answers will be marked wrong
- Where possible, think of your answer before looking at the choices
- Watch out for trick words such as: most, some, all, always, and never
- Watch out for tricks like swapping words such as: increase and decrease, or supply and demand
- Watch out for negative questions: not, none, and never
Short answer questions
- Keywords mean getting your terminology right. Do you have a lot of jargon in your course? You may need to memorise some keywords and terms
- Answer to the point, but explain and define – use TEAS or DADA models (see TAB)
- Show knowledge and understanding! Apply these to the question facts/case study
- Circle the keywords and relevant information in the questions and underline the instruction word (e.g., discuss, analyse, compare, contrast, explain)
All types of questions
- Don’t let time pressure force you into misreading a question. Read carefully and underline or highlight keywords
At the start of the writing time
- Write down any information or formula that you may have trouble remembering
- Write notes as they come to you. It’s good to show your ideas and working – don’t erase this!
- Begin with the most important questions (allocated the most marks)
- Reword the question in your own words to help you understand it
Establish a clear argument before you start writing. Use scrap paper to make a rough outline for longer answers. It’s often easier to write the body of your answer and add the introduction later, so leave 5-6 lines for your introduction.
Drawing a mind map or flow chart of your answer can also help. See an infographic example here by choosing the Planning your assignment - flowchart PDF.
TEAS or DADA models can help ensure you include everything required.
Use the first sentence and paragraph to state your answer and how the question will be addressed
Use diagrams or graphs if appropriate
Remember to have a basic introduction, body and conclusion on essay-style answers. The body can follow TEAS or DADA
Short answer paragraphs can go straight into the explanation – TEAS or DADA models can help ensure you include all the required information
Write an introduction after the body of your answer – leave blank 5-6 lines at the start to write the introduction later
Theory – name the theory, define/ explain key terms to show your knowledge
Example – provide one from textbook or own ideas to show your understanding
Analysis/Application – apply above knowledge and understanding to directly answer the question (longest part of your answer)
Summary – give conclusions and/or recommendations, if required
Define – define the theory, keywords/terms that relate to your answer, e.g., medical/technical words
Asumptions – list any assumptions e.g. all things being equal, underlying conditions, etc.
Diagram – draw a diagram, graph, chart, or process flow to help answer the question
Analysis – use the above theory and diagram to directly answer the question
Write down what you did right or wrong
Studying for exams
- Memory hacks
- Preparation tips